The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy by Gil Anidjar Book Review


Gil Anidjar is a bit of a mysterious figure; in so far as his biographical information is at best sketchy and difficult to come by. What is repeated enough to constitute being ‘known’ about Anidjar is that he is a Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Otherwise he was born in France in 1964 and trained under famed Jewish deconstructionist Jacques Derrida.


Lore Waldvogel in reviewing Anidjar’s book Blood: A Critique On Christianity has speculated that his surname “would seem to be Jewish and his work fits well into the common pattern of Jewish involvement in the culture of critique.” Whether Jewish or Arab or Jewish-Arab or Arabic-Jew or Muslim-Jewish or any other such configuration that Anidjar strings together in the book, perhaps one ethnically and the other culturally – Anidjar is certainly a member of what he himself would term an “Enemy” group of Europe and by extension of Europeans. But one of the ways we can infer about who and what he is by looking at those who have avowed themselves his enemies. Foremost amongst them is Jewish neocon David Horowitz who has included Anidjar in his The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. Horowitz’ think tank The David Horowitz Freedom Center’s pro-Trump neocon publication Frontpage Magazine has also run an article denouncing Anidjar as a ‘teacher of hate.’ The article begins by painting Anidjar’s in a manner entirely of an Occidental Observer perspective: “The course on “Hate” is not really about the history or literature of the Middle East at all. It is an extended rumination upon two matters. The first is the evil of Europe, which has for its own purposes not merely created “the Other” (or rather, being especially awful, as Europe will be, creating two “the Others” – “Arab” and “Jew”), and subjecting both of them to identical diabolical persecution.”

Although I think this is a slight misreading, the comparisons of a Jewish Neocon and AltRight (European Identitarian) perspective stop there. What Frontpage Magazine has a problem with is Anidjar’s supposed aim is “the business of symmetrically reducing ‘Jew’ and ‘Arab’ to the identical status of victims.” Because for them the only eternal victim group who incidentally never wronged anyone in the history of their existence is the Jews and how dare Anidjar try to morally guilt Europeans vis a vis the Muslims that’s ‘the business’ of the Jews. It’s worth quoting the two paragraphs at length in order to observe the outright chutzpah:

“Unfortunately, it bears no relation to reality. The Jews of Europe were in fact (see Leon Poliakoff, see Malcolm Hay, see Gavin Langmuir) subjected, first out of theological hatreds, and then out of racism directed at Jews even if they ceased to be Jews, over more than a millennium. They were inoffensive; they had no political or military power. Yet they were driven from country after country, their goods stolen, many of them killed. The history of charges of ritual murder, of massacres, could fill up a book, and indeed, do fill up a book – Simon Wiesenthal’s Every Day Remembrance Day, in which murder after murder, massacre after massacre, expulsion after expulsion, is listed.

But the Arabs? The Arabs, or rather the Muslims, though stopped by Charles Martel and the Franks at Poitiers in the West in 732, continued to fight in Spain until finally Muslim power came to an end in 1492; in the East, the Muslims seized much of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and were besieging Vienna as late as 1683. And meanwhile, for a thousand years, Arab raiders went up and down the coasts, not only on the Mediterranean, but as far north as Ireland and Iceland, and razed and looted whole villages, and kidnapped, historians estimate, about 1 million white Europeans (and killed many more) who were taken back to North Africa, enslaved, and forcibly converted. The historian Giles Milton has just written White Gold about this forgotten part of European history, focusing on one Thomas Pellow.”

Gil Anidjar

What is striking about The Jew, the Arab is that what Anidjar is attempting is more complicated and obscured than such tactless remonstrations attest. Indeed, the central pivot of the book revolves around the concept of the ‘enemy’ as devised by Carl Schmitt as a necessary prerequisite for the political and it does so without the excessive moral pandering implied in such readings. “Schmitt offers a radical addition to the distinctions made ‘in the realm of morality’ (good and evil) or in the aesthetic realm (beautiful and ugly). As to the political sphere, Schmitt writes, ‘the specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” Almost Despite itself and its intellectual obscurantist style there are certain statements and modes of inquiry that are helpful for European Identitarians – not least one of the major foundations of the book contends that Europe and Europeans have two major historical enemies – the internal enemy of the Jew which Anidjar attaches to the “theological” and the external enemy of the Arab-Muslim which Anidjar attaches to the “political” and racial. Thus the former is essentially a spiritual enemy while the latter is a materialist one. Although one could infer given Anidjar’s Other status that his purpose in deconstructing the notion of the enemy entirely in relation to Europe, “It should become clear that The Jew, the Arab is about Europe: Europe is its limit and its limitations,” (xi) is to carry on the secular academic tradition of Jewish and following Edward Said’s Orientalism, of which this work shares similar weaknesses of “undeniable ahistoricism,” – critiques of Europe, “white people,” Christianity and Western Civilization generally. This was indeed Waldvogel’s understanding of Anidjar’s purpose in Blood and it may well be so in that case. But indeed in the case of The Jew, the Arab the opaque quality of the work does indicate that something dishonest is occurring throughout, but it is difficult to exactly categorize this is a work of anti-white, anti-European, anti-Christian bias spurious as it seems – rather it feels like a collection of erudite musings from an anti-imperialist leftist humanist who is part of the anti-Israel divestment campaign.

Like Waldvogel and Frontpage Magazine, I found Anidjar’s style overtly abstruse, purportedly purposefully, so as to obscure a lack of a solid line of reasoning – in so far as ‘comparative literature’ is valued over historio-sociological research the thesis is often somewhat submerged and tangential in places – while the text remains interesting if sesquipedalian throughout. I found the

style similar to Zizek’s in so far as it showcased both an intense overabundance of eurition and reference combined with perhaps specious anecdotals, well still remaining refreshingly creative – almost a kind of arabesque-feeling quality to it. Waldvogel again, “Instead, (of a clear line of argument) we encounter a string of household names such as Carl Schmitt, Giorgio Agamben, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Derrida,” hits on Anidjar’s and by extension a great mass of contemporary liberal arts academia’s weaknesses expertly – the overwhelming intersectional name-dropping of ideas and thinkers – litterae nihil sanantes. I encountered the same feeling as Waldvogel, “It feels a bit as if Anidjar had used his research grants for harvesting quotes from world literature and philosophy related to the semantic field of blood…” but in the place of blood in this case it was harvesting instances of the “enemy” that was peppered often without incorporation or extrapolation throughout the text. To Anidjar’s credit he does offer at various times what can be called a somewhat evolving critique of his subject. For instance he traces a movement of the enemy category through what he calls the “theological enemy” into the “political enemy” – as a kind of dialectical synthesis of a theological-political dichotomy. Anidjar attests this is at the base of a schism in Western ontology, generally. Wherein the Jew became the basis of the theological half and Muslims-Arabs became the basis of the political half.

The opening chapter ‘The Theological Enemy’ traces the movement from Judaism’s law “love thy neighbour” (often interpreted as love thy fellow Jew) to Christ’s “impossible” (according to St Aquinas and Freud) commandment to “love thy enemies.” It traces in this the paradox of the Christian message as exemplified by Paul for whom both sinners and Jews are both, at the same time and in the same place, enemies and brothers – “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom. 11:28-29).

keep-calm-and-love-your-enemiesHerein the Christian idealism of a universal brotherhood of mankind is at war with the identitarian pretensions of the Jews but also the emerging political spheres of nations, city-states, kings, princes and other sovereignties as well as later racial identitarian movements such as Nazism, as Anidjar writes, “the subject of Paul’s letter is at war with itself, making it impossible to sustain the division suggested by Schmitt… the theological enemy as both personal and political and as neither personal nor political.” (9). A section on Freud’s Jesus, which echoes or acts as a synecdochic symbol for whole of the Jewish communities rejection of the new covenant, follows.

Anidjar then traces the movement of the ‘practicalizing’ of the idealism within Christendom proper, from St. Augustine’s notion of just war. The idea of Christian love than is juxtaposed and made complicated by the political obligations of the Church to community and the threats of its real existing enemies – the Jews and the Arabs and other heretics. This movement of the theological towards the political is expressed as the triumph of Aquinas, “enemies are contrary to us precisely as enemies…” Anidjar qualifies, “Aquinas thus turns Augustine on his head and restores differences that had been all but dismissed, abstracted.”

The second chapter examines Derrida, Anidjar’s mentor, from whose notes the title of the book is taken. If Anidjar is truly his master’s student than he would be following Derrida’s life work as the

father of deconstruction – the stated aim of which is to destroy European identity, as Zizek quotes in an essay attempting to disprove Kevin Macdonald’s thesis of Jewish subversion in Culture of Critique:

“The idea behind deconstruction is to deconstruct the workings of strong nation-states with powerful immigration policies, to deconstruct the rhetoric of nationalism, the politics of place, the metaphysics of native land and native tongue… The idea is to disarm the bombs… of identity that nation-states build to defend themselves against the stranger, against Jews and Arabs and immigrants…”

Incidentally passages like this seem to unequivocally prove MacDonald’s thesis, broadly that Jews are attracted and spearhead political and intellectual movements which seek to weaken and destroy the natural bonds of their host societies while benefitting Jews themselves; “Jews have been the main motivating force behind several highly influential intellectual movements that have simultaneously subjected gentile culture to radical criticism and allowed for the continuity of Jewish identification.”
Zizek’s response to MacDonald’s thesis is a typical leftist Marxian-Freudian word salad analysis, which effectively devolves into name calling; “We should have no illusions here: measured by the standards of the great Enlightenment tradition, we are effectively dealing with something for which the best designation is the old orthodox Marxist term for “bourgeois irrationalists”: the self-destruction of Reason. The only thing to bear in mind is that this new barbarism is a strictly post-modern phenomenon, the obverse of the highly reflexive self-ironical attitude—no wonder that, reading authors like MacDonald, one often cannot decide if one is reading a satire or a “serious” line of argumentation.”

Derrida, who speaks as a sort of “Judeo-Algerian” and “uprooted African” and also as a “little black and very arab Jew” casts “the name Derrida become double at least.” Indeed the majority of this section is perhaps a mirror for Anidjar’s own sense of “doubleness” of marginality, of what sociologist Robert Park calls being “a marginal man.” Park writes that the effect of mass migration of various groups into relatively close proximity to each other in cosmopolitan areas produces “an unstable character, a personality type with characteristic forms of behavior.” That a person “who may or may not be a mixed blood – finds himself striving to live in two diverse cultural groups.” Park then identifies this dualism most prominently, lastingly, and historically within the psyche of the emancipated European Jew. Thus, “the emancipated Jew was, and is, historically and typically the marginal man, the first cosmopolite and citizen of the world.” Rather than consciously evaluate himself and Derrida his mentor and “marginal man” mirror, Anidjar plays a kind of game reminiscent of Zizek, calling both Judaism and Islam, and the Jew and the Arab and the hyphenated Arab-Jew; the “Abrahamic” including but also set against the middle stage or antithesis of Christianity and the Christian community.

Chapter three De Inimicitia, offering an interesting reading of Hobbes’ Leviathan above all and the movement of the “enemy” as category as set against the emerging modern state, which sees “the translation of every man into the enemy, the translation of the neighbor into the enemy.”

This begins an intriguing dialogue primarily between Hobbes, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche and Schmitt.

The closing of the first half of the book is with an Appendix on Franz Rosenzweig’s The Star of Redemption, a work that I am not very familiar. “The enemy it attacks is the philosophy of German idealism, the home it defends is the individual.” This section is really a maddening display of Jewish subversion and supremacy; which makes claims of Christian inadequacy: “While the Jewish people knows no war because, for the Jewish people, for God’s people, the distinction between self and other has been abolished, and while Christendom maintains that distinction, what Christian peoples cannot maintain, what they have abolished, is the distinction between others, the difference between one neighbor and the next, and therefore the difference between God and world.” Beyond this there are some interesting ideas floating within that have worked their way from the beginning of the first half of the book: “At the theological pole, Judaism experiences only political war. At the political pole, Islam spreads only holy war. And in between lies Christendom, undecidably theological-political.”

Part II or the book’s second half, opens with a very interesting discussion of Shakespeare’s two Venice plays, The Merchant of Venice and Othello (so-called The Moor of Venice). This section attempts to reaffirm one of his central thesis – “The Moor of Venice is located within the sphere of politics… whereas the Merchant of Venice clearly stages a struggle over metaphysical truths.”

Finally the Fifth chapter Muslims (Hegel, Freud, Auschwitz), does an account of Hegel’s theories regarding religion, it also revisits Freud but the more interesting account was the usage of the term “Musselman” as an Auschwitz slang term for Jews who listlessly gave up hope within the camps – seemingly resembling praying Arabs. This account was contrasted to Israeli literary depictions of Arabs in Palestine – the accounts were eerily similar.

In totum the book is interesting and useful for European Identitarians who wish to identify and understand their “enemies.” If it is the intention of Anidjar to “deconstruct” Europe in the manner of his master Derrida, it appears he succeeded instead in convoluting the matter to the point of achieving almost an opposite. That is my reading gleaned some understanding of the cultural-racial edifice of Europe while acknowledging that “enemies” are essential to its own understanding of itself and of the Other. Whether it was Anidjar’s intention to reveal the ‘substanceless,’ or at least contingent component to “Othering” and making an Enemy out of the Other, it seems he only succeeded in reaffirming the necessity.

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